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LifeFlight crew tackle King of the Mountain

The Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter team have circled the top of Mount Cooroora countless times and this weekend they’ll join hundreds of runners tackling it from the ground up in the 39th Pomona King of the Mountain challenge. 

The idea to compete in the lung-busting challenge was born in 2015 after the LifeFlight aeromedical crew winched two runners to safety who were injured during the race.

LifeFlight Aircrewman Dan King was the winch operator during the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and suggested to the crew they give the gruelling challenge a crack . 

"I said to the pilot, who I was on with at the time, 'Bet you I can beat you to the top of the hill' and he said he thought I was dreaming, so that meant there was only one way to find out, " Dan joked. 

The crew finished close to the front of the pack last year and now they're keen to improve on last year’s result. 

This year they'll be joined by LifeFlight Critical Care Doctor Luke Nottingham who joined the base in January. 

The Sunshine Coast doctor's first medical placement, after graduation, was in a place somewhat different to Queensland. 

In 2011 he worked in the trauma ward at one of South Africa’s largest hospitals and Luke recalls his time there as some of most demanding months of his life. 

"There'd be shootings and stabbings on a daily basis, to the point where a lot of patients required open heart surgery in the resuscitation stage, in the emergency rooms," Luke remembered. 

 The hospital was located in Soweto, an area notorious for crime and high unemployment. 

"Occasionally the trauma injuries would be as a result of gang wars, so you'd have two people from opposing gangs being treated in the one room but at opposite ends," Luke said. 

He said the challenging experience overseas helped to advance his professional skills dramatically, as has his six-month posting to the Maroochydore base which has included drownings, motor vehicle accidents and crush injuries from industrial accidents. 

Luke said there was no better way to experience the region's beauty than to take part in a community event like King of the Mountain. 

"I'm always up for an outdoor adventure and the Sunshine Coast is pretty spoilt with all the mountains,” Luke said.

“I think it's the only race that comes to mind that goes up and down one of the peaks so that combined with the fact it's a cool little community out in Pomona and then hopefully there’s also the bragging rights at work.”

Both Dan and Luke will compete alongside their colleague Andrew Caton, who's the local pilot and a ultra-marathon runner, and former LifeFlight doctor, Andrew Haggerty is also on the team. 

The runners have completed most of their training individually because of the difficulty in coordinating training schedules with their shift work at LifeFlight. And when the starter’s gun sounds, colleagues will become competitors. 

"It's going to be a faster race this year I think, from a LifeFlight perspective," Dan said. 

2016-17 was a record year for LifeFlight for lifesaving missions with its aeromedical crews, community helicopters and Air Ambulance jets performing a record 5,252 missions throughout Queensland and around the world.